Mortgage rates hit a new record low heading into the holiday weekend as a resurgence of coronavirus cases prompted investors to rush to the relative safety of the bond markets.
The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage was 3.07%, the lowest in a data series that goes back to 1971, and down from 3.13% last week, Freddie Mac reported on Thursday. The average 15-year rate tumbled to a seven-year low of 2.56%.
“Mortgage rates continue to slowly drift downward with a distinct possibility that the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage could dip below 3 percent later this year,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “On the economic front, incoming data suggest the rebound in economic activity has paused in the last couple of weeks with modest declines in consumer spending and a pullback in purchase activity.”
New coronavirus cases in the United States have risen sharply in recent weeks, leading investors to worry that renewed lockdowns will again depress economic activity, according to Goldman Sachs.
While newly confirmed infections have been declining in former hot spots such as New York and New Jersey, several states across the South and West have set single-day records. The United States recorded 52,789 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, the largest single-day total since the start of the pandemic.
This timeline by Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center shows the major infection control measures and reopenings undertaken by states after the first COVID-19 cases appeared in the United States, alongside the number of new cases and deaths in each state over the same time period.
Research by Goldman Sachs suggests a national face mask mandate could partially substitute for renewed lockdowns.
“At present, the United States is among the less restrictive countries with respect to face mask mandates,” the Goldman Sach report states. “The federal government did issue a national recommendation to wear masks in public settings in April, and many state and local governments have taken more stringent measures. However, a recommendation is not a mandate and the governors of both Florida and Texas—the two most heavily affected large states—recently reiterated their opposition to a statewide mask mandate. By contrast, many European countries now have national mask mandates in place, and much of East Asia has strong social norms of mask wearing when sick and during pandemics.”
The report adds, “If a face mask mandate meaningfully lowers coronavirus infections, it could be valuable not only from a public health perspective but also from an economic perspective because it could substitute for renewed lockdowns that would otherwise hit GDP.”